(Adds details, context)
By Goran Tomasevic
JONGLEI STATE, South Sudan Jan 31 South Sudan
rebel leader Riek Machar said on Friday that government threats
to try him for treason were an attempt to scupper peace talks,
and called for the president to resign, in his first
face-to-face interview since violence erupted.
The government said this week that former vice president
Machar and six of his allies should face the charge, accusing
him of trying to launch a coup after fighting broke out between
rival groups of soldiers in the capital mid-December.
Machar denied the accusation and took refuge in remote
Jonglei state as clashes between forces loyal to him and
government troops spread across the oil-producing nation,
"I am not aware of why we should face those charges for an
alleged coup that never happened," Machar told Reuters in his
bush hideout. "(It) is another attempt to stop peace talks."
Both sides agreed to negotiations in neighbouring Ethiopia
following diplomatic pressure from regional powers, the United
Nations and major donors including Washington. They agreed to a
ceasefire last week, but violence has continued.
"It would be best for Kiir to resign. We are due for
elections in 2015. Before the elections there would be an
interim government," Machar said.
(Reporting by Goran Tomasevic; Writing by Richard Lough;
Editing by Andrew Heavens)